* Giving birth in this West African nation is a shockingly dangerous business. Ten percent of women die from complications while pregnant or delivering their babies — about 600 times the rate in the most-developed countries.
* A newborn is often fed sugar water or even urine or tea made from coca leaves; these substances are wrongly believed to have medicinal benefits. Before starting to nurse, women won’t feed the baby the darkest breast milk (the colostrum, which comes in shortly after birth) because it looks dirty to them; they don’t know that it’s valuable nourishment for their babies.
* Another strange belief in Mali: If you don’t wash a newborn immediately after delivery, he will smell bad his whole life.
* The average family in Pakistan has five children, and most births take place at home without medical help. Three women die and 40 are permanently disabled in childbirth every hour.
* Holding hands or kissing can cause pregnancy — or so many young women in this populous South Asian nation believe. Others think it’s impossible to get pregnant before marriage. Such misconceptions are not surprising, considering that only 28 percent of women are literate.
* Other pregnancy myths: Some Pakistanis believe that drinking coffee can cause a baby to have dark skin, or that drinking ice water may result in the birth of a child with an enlarged head.
* Long-haul breastfeeding is common in Pakistan. About 56 percent of children are still nursing at the age of 23 months.